From working on traditional focuses – like bandwidth speeds, content demand, and data usage – Akamai Technologies, known for its research on the internet, the current and upcoming trends that are inter-related to this platform, and the data that run through its pipes – has now set its sights on videogames.
Such a move, while not unexpected, shows that Akamai is keeping pace with the times as this immersive content concept is now a mainstay trend that has massively influenced current pop culture trends. In fact, by the looks of it, videogames is still a major force of change for many industries.
For Akamai, it has to do with the fact that videogames are now truly pervasive, have become synonymous with the web, and can easily be leveraged on to create new trends for various pop culture elements. According to Nelson Rodriguez, Senior Marketing Manager, Games Industry, Akamai, the gaming industry and the web, even with IT in general, are very much inter-related and share very similar challenges, opportunities, and potential for growth.
Team Amanz.net caught up with the man behind most of the gaming work for Akamai at the recently concluded Casual Connect Asia 2016 to find out why the internet innovation platform has moved into the videogames space.
“When people think of gaming, they think of it being for a dedicated market or industry segment. Most do not realise that this sector is closely linked to the IT, content, and internet industries. They are all inter-related and Akamai, being an internet company of sorts that deals with web technologies and data trends, would definitely have dabbled with these point of interest. Like our current work with internet and data processing, we also apply our three core focuses – accelerating content delivery; enhanced caching for dynamic data management and processing; and advanced security capabilities for our offerings – onto our work with games,” Rodriguez shared.
All three factors, on many levels, are inter-related to videogames as they ensure the seamless gameplay and user data management that many players have come to expect from big hit developers.
With gaming, Akamai has gone beyond its usual scope of work with internet traffic and data insights. Rodriguez revealed that since his company has, traditionally, worked very closely with content delivery platforms, moving to videogames more than a decade ago had been the next logical step forward. As is, most publishers now use their own delivery system to put their games out.
“Akamai can be seen as being directly associated to games, for the last 12 years at least, as most of the big players in this space have been working with us to optimise their data delivery platforms and services. We even got involved with the multiplayer aspects since we have systems in place that can manage the dynamic data that live gaming sessions are producing in real-time. Our work on security is brought onto the table as well since personal information is being managed within these videogames and, thus, have to be properly managed with multiple encryption and protective measures,” Rodriguez said.
When prompted on how exactly Akamai is leveraging on this ongoing relationship, the marketing expert and self-admitted gamer revealed how the idea seemed like a perfect fit for the renowned content delivery service provider. Since videogames now operate on massive platforms, connecting to their users seamlessly and pushing out data as and when necessary has become a critical aspect for their operations. This is how Akamai is able to jump right into the games industry and immediately engage its expertise and industry know-how with the processes that are in place.
For Rodriguez, the expertise that Akamai has with data mechanics and how they are engaged on the web gives it the much needed credence and leverage to really run on all pistons when it approached the videogames industry. It is even more relevant now due to the current operational nature of this particular sector.
“Videogames are very hyper-connected now and, more than ever, they inter-linked players from all over the world . From local area network gameplay to what we now know as online multiplayer, which takes into account live-streaming and real-time score-tracking, it cannot be denied that they all now run on a shared platform. Furthermore, apart from being constantly jacked into the network, these immersive environments are massive in data capacities. What used to be 2GB to 3GB at most has ballooned to over 30GB, even 50GB! Triple-A games on consoles used to be 7GB and now they top 60GB easily. With files size getting bigger, a more stable and seamless platform is needed to send out those bits of data. Even the multiplayer aspect has to be properly managed as well, again calling for a secure, reliable, and highly capable web connection. This is how games became a natural fit for data processes and mechanics that we work on and push to improve,” Rodriguez added.
Of course, and to reinforce the fact that this move is by no means planned, Akamai did not foresee from when it had first been established 16 years ago that this highly immersive content sector would be such a good fit. Rodriguez perfectly describes the scenario at-hand: “This is a space that has really heavy data needs and equally as massive file sizes. Its rapid emergence gave rise to the fact that data and this enriched engagement content segment go hand-in-hand with each other.”
To put things into sharper perspective, Rodriguez – even with his admittance to being positively biased towards videogames – believes the internet is more important for the games industry than any other business that is somehow related to videogaming.
“Unlike eCommerce where the web is just an intermediary platform, multiplayer and online gaming need the inter-connected net to offer the immersive user experience that it promises to deliver. It’s instant yet lengthy at the same time – gamers want to be plugged into the system immediately and not leave for an hour at least, even two. Without the internet, none of that can ever happen,” Rodriguez said.
What about videos – aren’t they the same thing?
Rodriguez’s take: “They’re not! Look, online videos – streamed, downloaded, or otherwise – just requires one press of a button or a short browsing process – basically it has minimal user engagement and users can sit back and watch the content on their device. With a game, there is always a point of contact for players – an average of thirty times a second on average.”
Having all the growth potential waiting to be tapped onto means there is still a long way to go for the videogames industry to become a force to be reckoned with. As is, videos still rule the airspace and attention of just about everybody.
Thus, the internet revolution still has to rely on the likes of YouTube, Netflix, and online-enabled video broadcasters to gain new heights of advancement. Games, coincidentally, are part of this drive for development.
“Personally, transforming the internet as it is now requires both content plays. They have to mix it up even further than what is considered as current. Videogames are pushing peak capacity in terms of usage and file size capacity, whereas videos – they’re more widespread still since the consumer uptake is higher than it is with games. Simply put, gaming is driving part of the business, specifically with how much data platforms will have to deal with. Videos, which has a direct say in consumption volume, still controls the majority and is critical for delivery demands and overall market development,” Rodriguez added.
Of course, videos have that one thing videogames do not have – advanced latency management. Since the former has extended itself into the far reaches of human appreciation, a seamless and highly reliant connection is a must. Similar demands for the latter are now on the rise and broadband service providers and game publishers are scrambling to put similar systems in place to deal with this surge.
Currently, gamers have to deal with the occasional drop in online play performance due to the high latency that occur on the network. According to Rodriguez, such issues have yet to be mitigated as the boost in graphics and file sizes have continuously rendered all current measures, and pretty much anything that is supposedly made for the next-gen Triple-A game, as useless.
“It’s not that the servers and broadband connections in place have issues. It’s more of how they are placed and being operated. It still takes 200 miliseconds for data to move from Singapore to San Francisco. That amount of time taken could potentially ruin a gamer’s chance to win the match. Right now, cluster nodes are being used to reduce latency but I believe that more can be done to reduce the latency and make the connection faster. For Akamai, that means rolling out even more of our services like bandwidth acceleration. With games, there is route acceleration and the new platforms like IP acceleration that ensure dynamic data processes can match the real-time specifications of live games. The latter is made in such a way that packets can be delivered in such a way that data traffic is stabilised even when it is regions known for bad connectivity,” Rodriguez said.
The accumulation of the work Akamai has done in the last decade for the gaming space, and the internet as well on many levels, gave it the forward leverage it needed to jump right into another fast growing subset in gaming – eSports. While this has been a trend-setting aspect of the videogames industry that has been around for nearly a decade, it only gain huge momentum in the last few years.
What this live setting, since it’s made specially for videogames, has brought about is a wide acceptance on how gaming can be experienced over multiple platforms – be it on the PC, a smart device, or over a satellite TV service. In wanting to provide the experience that many have come to expect, the resources needed is considerably mind-numbing. Akamai is able to meet these requirements and make these challenges less daunting.
“When eSports exploded onto the scene, it gave Akamai that one reason to bring two of our core businesses – innovating video and game platforms to provide hyper-connectivity for both industries – together. Many of our major videogame clients have jump into the deep-end of eSports and we’re tagging along for the ride. What’s even more interesting for us is how these same brands are looking into a new aspect for this sector – real-time audience connection. Once we solve the latency issue, it would allow these publishers to look into making it interactive for viewers who tune into the match. Fulfill certain requirements and it’ll grant gamers in the match certain powers that can be activated from the audience side. Isn’t that amazing?!” Rodriguez shared.
All this, of course, can be carried out depending on as and when the right infrastructure is rolled out. Akamai is always on the lookout to enhance these new technologies with our advanced data caching technologies. Already, there are plans in place to install these innovations right at the cell tower to empower mobile broadband connectivity and get these base stations up to speed so it can be ready for 5G rollout. This, Rodriguez noted, is part of the understanding that mobility is an on-going trend to follow-up with, especially with gaming since most players are now caught up with their gaming apps on smart devices.
“The mobile influence is not to be trifled with as it will also play a part in altering certain aspects of eCommerce that has to do with gaming. Gamers are likely to purchase DLCs or gaming codes online within the app or game instead of the online marketplace. If one really looked into it, this is one of the ways forward for the videogames industry. While high-powered videogame consoles and the PC still have a major say for this videogame industry, it cannot be denied that mobile games will have a critical role in all of this,” Rodriguez added.
It now remains to be seen just how much these anticipated trends will really rock the boat for the videogames industry. While there are other aspects to consider like the oncoming introduction of virtual reality and augmented reality, the rise in free-to-play, and the continued growth surge for casual gamers, influences from the internet will be have a bigger say in all of this. After all, without the web, most of the other growth considerations would not have gain as much traction as they already have.